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Go to where the real wild things are Friday
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The blockbuster movie, “Where the Wild Things Are,” tells about a mythical place.

But if you want to taste and experience the real wild things, head out Friday to the Manteca Trailer & Motor Home at 2060 East Yosemite Avenue in Manteca.

We are talking about the annual gastronomical feast staged annually by the brothers Jim and Jessie Costa, owners of Costa’s Automotive on Button Avenue.

In the early days, it was simply called Costa’s Wild Game Feed. Now, more than a decade later, it’s the Costa’s Annual Wild Game Feed & Holiday Benefit Party. The feed is open to anybody and there is no set admission fee or even a required ticket at the door. Guests simply come in and help themselves to the array of wild-game dishes. If they want to make a donation, they can leave any amount in a box placed in the dining area. Not a single penny is used in any of the party preparations.

One hundred percent of all the donations “go to help families in need in our community – clothes, food, furniture, and holiday blessings! All donations are appreciated. No amount is too small to help struggling families in this economic time,” the organizers state in their advertising flyer.
They are also asking those who can’t make it to the event on Friday but would like to help a needy family, to send their donations to Costa’s Automotive, P.O. Box 2036, Manteca 95336 with checks made out to Costa’s Automotive and “Game Feed” noted in the check’s memo line.

 The event usually attracts 800 people but the Costas have set up a goal of feeding 1,200 people on Friday. They have also expanded the feeding time – it will take place from 11:30 a.m. to approximately 7 p.m. this time.

Bear, wild pig, deer and elk, anyone?
The menu is a smorgasbord of tasty things that are wild – bear, deer, elk, wild pig, pheasant, duck, goose, quail, dove – plus the more familiar salmon, halibut, trout, rock cod, calamari and miscellaneous others. All the food are supplied by the Costa brothers, their only sister Janice Anderson who is also an avid hunter, and the Costa siblings’ slew of friends and relatives who all hunt and fish all over California and, for some, in other states. Last year, 20 friends of the Costas who took part in the annual pheasant shoot held by the Stockton Sportsmen’s Club in rural south Manteca, donated all the pheasants and chukar – about a hundred birds all in all – that they snagged at the hunting event.

All the cooking is done by volunteers. Jim Costa’s smoked salmon which he prepares using the secret recipe that he has perfected through the years, is a perennial hit. One year, his sister Janice shot a bear during a hunting trip and prepared the bear dish herself. A good portion of the food served is barbecued and deep fried on site by a large crew of dedicated volunteers led by Jim and Jessie Costa.

As usual, there will be plenty of other home-made side dishes made and contributed by many local citizens who have stepped forward to help in this cause.

Costas’ father started the giving spirit by helping a family in need
It was Jim and Jessie’s late father, Joe, who planted the original philanthropic seed from which the wild-game feed evolved. The story is now a familiar one to a lot of people.

Joe Costa, who founded Costa’s Automotive, had a Mexican employee at his shop. The man was the sole breadwinner for his wife and their 10 children. Tragedy struck when the man’s wife suddenly left him and their young children. Despite being urged to sign up for welfare to feed and care for his family, the proud father staunchly refused any such help. Desirous to help the struggling family but careful not to hurt the man’s pride, Joe Costa threw a Christmas party for the family and made arrangements for Santa to come and distribute gifts and other basic necessities for the children and their father.

That party was held at the automotive shop. Years later, they needed bigger quarters. Next door Vern’s  Towing offered his place of business where the event stayed for a number of years. But the increasingly popular Christmas gathering soon outgrew that place, too, at which time Terry Davis of Manteca Trailer stepped forward and offered the use of his brand new business quarters.

After Joe Costa passed away, his sons Jim and Jessie, two of his six children (three girls and three boys), not only took over the business but continued the Good Samaritan work that their father started.

What happened to the Mexican family that Joe Costa helped? None of his children knows, but son Jim said that everyone in the family eventually went back to Mexico with the exception of the youngest who ended up marrying a young man who was serving in the military.

“They left a good legacy,” one of the wild-game volunteers last year said of the seeds of mercy planted by Joe Costa and his wife Mary, devout Catholics whose parents came to America from the Azores.